The University of Maryland's new ban on beer kegs and punch bowls, an effort to control what officials see as an excessive flow of alcohol on the College Park campus, has prompted mixed reactions from students and merchants who say the brew is still flowing.
William Thomas, vice president of student affairs, requested the ban this summer after observing problems related to alcohol abuse on the campus. The university has had problems with fights, vandalism and rowdiness at parties where alcohol is served and in controlling drinking among students who are under the legal drinking age, which is 21.
"We believe that the availability of a non-incremental source of alcohol contributes to the abuse of alcohol," Thomas said. "If alcohol is dispensed differently, it has a better chance of not being abused."
The university's sororities and fraternities officially support the new policy, but some members privately criticize it. In an interview, they declined to be quoted by name but said the policy is unfair and may hamper sociability at their parties. They also said they do not like being stereotyped as heavy drinkers.
To other students, such as senior Marie DiGiorgio, president of the Sigma Kappa sorority, the rule is not a problem. "I don't really see any big difference between cans and kegs, except that cans are more expensive," she said.
One sorority member said the rule has helped establish order. At many parties, beer cans must be returned before getting another beer and the cans are collected for recycling. It is also easier to monitor drinking among minors because cans of beer are easily spotted, while a beverage inside a cup is harder to distinguish. At most campus parties, guests of drinking age are identified by having their hands stamped or by wearing special wrist bands, one student said.
In the meantime, local liquor stores received a letter Friday from the Prince George's County Liquor Board announcing a regulation that prohibits deliveries of alcoholic beverages to the campus.
Liquor store owners are skeptical of the result of the changes. "The students are going to drink one way or another," said Mike Rafatjah, owner of College Park Liquors. Since the ban on kegs and punch bowls, he said he has delivered as many as 200 cases of beer in cans to a party in one night. Before, he typically delivered 20 to 25 cases at a time.
Nationally and in the Washington area, university and college officials, concerned about the liability of accidents that could involve people drinking on campus, have implemented a variety of measures to curb student alcohol consumption. Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, banned kegs on its campus in the early 1980s. "I think it's logical that if you reduce the containers, then you have more control," said Rex Kellums, assistant vice president of student affairs. "With a can people are more aware, but with a cup people tend to overdrink."
University of Maryland students said they are concerned that university officials are considering a policy that would limit alcohol consumption at parties to beverages brought by guests.
Drury Bagwell, assistant vice president of student affairs, would not comment on whether the school would enforce such a BYOB policy, saying only that the school was considering it and is "looking at lots of options."
David Jarrell, a manager of Tic-Toc Liquors, said the ban on kegs has not affected sales at his store, the largest local liquor store near the campus. "It seems like an exercise in futility," he said.